By Paul Riario
Many of the most beloved Gretsch guitar models were introduced during the Fifties and Sixties, a time many guitar aficionados consider the company’s Golden Era. However, I strongly offer a counter argument that Gretsch is currently enjoying a guitar renaissance, as evidenced by their reimagining of numerous popular models with makeovers that make the brand even more appealing.
Case in point: Gretsch recently released two brand-new series of guitar models, the Players Edition and Vintage Select Edition. With 16 distinctive models, Vintage Select Editions are a lot like custom shop guitars, inspired by model-specific years and featuring mostly period-correct appointments. Conversely, the Players is comprised of 18 classic Gretsch guitar models designed with upgrades and responsive features that make them roadworthy, with the intention of it becoming your “go-to” guitar for every performance.
Digging into the Players Edition you’ll find Falcons, Nashvilles, Anniversaries and many more of Gretsch’s most popular models. However, also included are “Broadkaster” models, a historically familiar Gretsch name previously used for their flagship drum set, which now graces what the company designates as their Center-Block line of guitars. It’s a fitting title, considering that the Broadkaster’s chambered spruce center block delivers a wallop of boosted volume output with punchy resonance and detailed fidelity. Gretsch offers five Broadkaster models: I was lucky to test drive the Single-Cut Cadillac Green model, specifically the G6659TG Players Edition Broadkaster Jr. Center-Block Single-Cut with String-Thru Bigsby and Gold Hardware.
There is no mistaking the luxurious styling of the G6659TG Broadkaster— it’s one of the more elegant Gretsch guitars I’ve come across. The striking Cadillac Green finish paired with aged white binding on its laminated maple body and neck perfectly complements the abundant and shiny gold hardware—from the Broadkaster badge on the headstock to the “G-Arrow” control knobs, Full’Tron pickups and Bigsby vibrato. Classic appointments include aged pearloid thumbnail inlays and a tortoiseshell pickguard. But the Broadkaster’s most appealing feature of all may be its wonderfully compact size, hence the “junior” designation. Featuring a 14-inch lower bout, a 10.4-inch upper bout and a 1 3/4–inch thickness for its body, the guitar feels properly balanced while comfortably hugging the guitarist in a playing position.
The Broadkaster Jr. feels very much like a custom shop hot-rodded Gretsch, with almost every feature fine-tuned and painstakingly refined to allow you to focus on playing rather than worrying about the janky nature of some vintage Gretsch guitars that are notorious for intonation and tuning problems. The gold Gotoh locking tuners, Graph Tech TUSQ XL nut and anchored Adjusto-Matic bridge resolve such issues, and the Broadkaster’s super-flat 12-inch radius on its ebony fretboard with 22 perfectly leveled, crowned and polished medium jumbo frets provide playability par excellence. The maple neck’s U-shaped profile feels uniformly slim all the way up to higher fret registers. The string tension feels slinky and springy, which is likely due in part to the Bigsby B7GP vibrato with its buttery smooth throw and clever string-thru design that provides an efficient way to quickly change strings.
The G6659TG is undeniably a very pretty guitar, but its beauty isn’t just skin deep. Under its hood you’ll find “Squeezebox” PIO capacitors, a treble bleed circuit and “no-load” tone control, which all add up to stellar, detailed and dynamic tone. The G6659TG delivers tremendous hollowbody tone for a smaller-body guitar, but it’s less of the renowned “Gretsch growl” found in their larger archtops and more of a sweetly refined twang that’s ideal for country and rockabilly. The USA Full’Tron neck and bridge pickups deliver smooth-yet-percussive snap and brilliant chime on cleaner settings—a classic sound many Gretsch players crave—but if your stylistic comfort zone involves crunch you’ll be equally pleased by the pickups’ healthy dollop of midrange girth, especially when overdriven loudly through an amp. The chambered center block inside the body does wonders for managing feedback when playing at high volume levels, making single notes hum with infinite musical sustain rather than uncontrollable howl.
The junior-sized G6659TG is comfortably lightweight with exceptional playability that distinguishes itself as a true player’s guitar. But for all its deluxe appointments and custom features, its responsively rich tone is the main factor that suggests this new model is a classic in the making.
LIST PRICE: $3,849
Gretsch Guitars, gretschguitars.com.
Jason Barnes, VP/Brand Manager of Gretsch Guitars, tells it like it is about the Players Edition Series.
What separates the Players Edition guitars from the rest of the Gretsch line?
Players Edition is for the player that needs that powerful Gretsch sound while also desiring comfort, versatility and the best in night-after-night onstage performance. Our Players Edition Broadkasters have all-new Full’Tron pickups that provide signature Gretsch balance and fidelity, while also delivering a more gain-friendly midrange for quicker preamp clipping and buttery overdrive. Also, Players Edition Broadkasters are spec’d with features you need to get through the night: locking tuning keys, strap locks, string-thru Bigsby for quick string changes, master volume with treble-bleed circuit and no-load tone pot for full-throttle ’Tron power or “rolled off” smoothness.
What inspired the all-new, smaller design of the Broadkaster Jr.?
While many love the sound of a 17-inch or 16-inch Gretsch monster, a fair number of players want that rich tone with a much smaller footprint. The Broadkaster Jr. body shape is designed for “big body” tone in a smaller, more comfortable format. Its more compact size also provides a slightly quicker attack and enhanced tonal focus.
The Players Edition combines numerous performance upgrades with classic looks. Do you find guitarists want more of this?
Definitely. In concept, Players Edition isn’t entirely radical. It’s merely the summation of literal decades of listening to what players need. Gretsch undoubtedly has the vibe, and Players models simply augment it by delivering the practicality and performance of tour-worthy instruments. These models preserve the Gretsch tone but are enhanced for greater tonal control and the utmost playability and reliability—no quirks here, just classic Gretsch power bridled by common sense functionality.